Anybody with fond memories of Ghost Stories, last year’s Playhouse co-production that turned into a global success story (it just opened in Toronto, having taken over the West End), will have been waiting for Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales with some excitement.
Like Ghost Stories, it is a co-production with the Lyric Hammersmith theatre, and has been adapted by Jeremy Dyson, who also co-wrote the previous production. And it takes a similar format, telling short individual stories that are all connected by a narrative thread that begins and ends the show. Based on Dahl’s stories for adults, a la his Tales of the Unexpected, it is set in a classic era, where the men wear bowler hats to work and the women dream of mink over their pre-dinner martinis.
A stranger joins a group of businessmen on a train, and begins to tell strange stories with a sting in the tale. We heard of the lonely landlady, the bored housewife, the foreigner who likes a bet, the cancer patient and the sadistic public schoolboy. Of course, nothing is what it seems. The cast of six fitted beautifully into several roles each and were convincing in all. Highlights included Selina Griffiths as the landlady and Nick Fletcher as Perkins, the anxious commuter for whom the stories bring back a terrible memory – or so he thinks.
It must take a lot behind the scenes to make this continual flurry of activity look so effortless, neat and straightforward. A rotating segment of stage kept the main backdrop in place while the required props or characters could be swiftly dispatched without distraction. The set and costumes were fantastic throughout, evocative and inventive (the flock wallpaper shadow effect at the guest house was one of just many beautiful little touches).
Running straight through at one hour 20 minutes with no interval, Twisted Tales is a stylish, easy watch, and an impressively slick production from a solid cast.
Twisted Tales runs at the Playhouse until April 23.
Picture by Alistair Muir.